Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light.
If long-wave UV light is directed at the wings of bats with white-nose syndrome, it produces a distinctive orange-yellow fluorescence. This orange-yellow glow corresponds directly with microscopic skin lesions that are the current “gold standard” for diagnosing white-nose syndrome in bats.
“When we first saw this fluorescence of a bat wing in a cave, we knew we were on to something,” said Greg Turner from Pennsylvania Game Commission, who has been using this technique since 2010. “It was difficult to have to euthanize bats to diagnose WNS when the disease itself was killing so many. This was a way to get a good indication of which bats were infected and take a small biopsy for testing rather than sacrifice the whole bat.”
Millions of bats in the United States have died from the fungal disease called White nose syndrome which is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans (Pd). White-nose syndrome was first seen in New York during the winter of 2006. Since then, the disease has spread to 25 US states and 5 Canadian provinces.
A significant problem in studying WNS has been the unreliability of visual onsite inspection when checking for WNS in bats during hibernation; the only way to confirm presence of disease was to euthanize the bats and send them back to a laboratory for testing.
“Ultraviolet light was first used in 1925 to look for ringworm fungal infections in humans,” said Carol Meteyer, USGS scientist and one of the lead authors on the paper. “The fact that this technique could be transferred to bats and have such remarkable precision for indicating lesions positive for Pd invasion is very exciting.”
To test the UV light’s effectiveness, bats with and without white-nose syndrome in North America were tested by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, first using UV light, then using traditional histological techniques to verify the UV light’s accuracy.
In the USGS lab testing, 98.8 percent of bats with the orange-yellow fluorescence tested positive for white-nose syndrome, whereas 100 percent of those that did not fluoresce tested negative for the disease. Targeted biopsies showed that pinpoint areas of fluorescence coincided with the microscopic wing lesions that are characteristic for WNS.
Researchers in the Czech Republic then tested the UV light-assisted biopsy technique in the field, using it to collect small samples from areas of bat wing that fluoresced under UV light. In this study, 95.5 percent of wing biopsies that targeted areas of fluorescence were microscopically positive for WNS lesions, while again 100 percent of bats that did not fluoresce were negative for WNS.
Combining research from two continents demonstrates that UV diagnostics might be applicable worldwide with great sensitivity and specificity in detecting WNS.
“Moreover, the technique hurts the animal minimally and bats fly away after providing data for research,” said Natalia Martinkova from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. “This makes UV fluorescence an ideal tool for studying endangered species.”
This effort included partners in the USFWS, state and federal biologists, the Czech Science Foundation, and the National Speleological Society of the USA.
This research article, “Nonlethal Screening of Bat-wing Skin with the Use of Ultraviolet Fluorescence to Detect Lesions Indicative of White-Nose Syndrome,” was recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. More information may be found on USGS research on white-nose syndrome here.
JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have approved more than $10.8 million in total assistance for survivors of the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that occurred in Mississippi from April 28 to May 3. The following is a breakdown of that assistance.
SBA disaster loans for homeowners and rentersLanguage English
JACKSON, Miss. – It was April 28 when tornadoes swept from west to east across Mississippi, the beginning of five days of severe storms that also brought rain and flooding. The National Weather Service confirmed 23 tornadoes in the state and 14 deaths. More than 1,200 homes and 90 businesses were destroyed or sustained major damage. Approximately 2,000 homes and 200 businesses were damaged in some way. Two days into the event, Governor Phil Bryant’s request for a federal disaster declaration was granted by President Obama.Language English
FEMA Awards $238,219 Grant to City of Savanna: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to acquire and demolish eight flood prone structures
CHICAGO –The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $238,219 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to Savanna, Ill., for the acquisition and demolition of eight residential structures in the Plum River floodplain.Following demolition, these properties will be maintained as permanent open space in the community.Language English
LINCROFT, N.J. -- Millions of people enjoy living near the water, but few people actually want to live in it.
When a property or a neighborhood experiences repeated flooding, costs for the property owner, the community and the state can escalate rapidly.
Flooding may impact the stability of a home or an entire neighborhood, damage or destroy personal property, impact property values and lead to injuries or loss of life. Emergency responders may risk their own lives to help residents escape rising waters.Language English
JACKSON, Miss. – One day remains to visit the disaster recovery center in Waynesboro, which closes at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 28.
Also closing this week, at 6 p.m. Friday, are the disaster recovery centers in Laurel and on Stadium Road in Columbus.
Three remaining disaster recovery centers will be closed weekends beginning this week. They are on Lawrence Drive in Columbus, in Louisville and in Tupelo.Language English
DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife seeking great shots of Delaware anglers for 2015 Fishing Guide photo contest
Little Rock, Ark. – As residents rebuild their lives and their homes, representatives of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are encouraging all people in Faulkner, Pulaski, Randolph and White counties who suffered damages as a result of the tornadoes and severe storms to file with their insurance companies and to register with FEMA.Language English
JACKSON, Miss. – Some Mississippi tornado survivors who registered for federal disaster assistance may receive letters or other correspondence from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that say they’re ineligible for help.
However, in many cases, they may be able to turn what appears to be a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ by following through and providing additional information.Language English
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Specialists from the State Emergency Response Team and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be available over the long holiday weekend to provide disaster survivors in Jackson County with on-site registration assistance.
The temporary registration intake center is now open in Marianna to help survivors affected by the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding from April 28 through May 6. The center offers a quick and convenient way for people to register with FEMA.Language English
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Rebuilding or repairing property damaged from the recent severe storms? Get advice on building safer, stronger and smarter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Mitigation experts from FEMA will be on hand at home improvement stores in Conway, Searcy and Little Rock to offer information on rebuilding after a disaster. The advisors can answer questions about protecting homes from future disaster-related damage and offer tips to build hazard-resistant homes.Language English
WOODS HOLE, Mass. —Flooding in coastal areas bordering Great South Bay, N.Y. and Barnegat Bay, N.J. caused by winter storms that occurred following Hurricane Sandy was not influenced by changes Sandy made to barrier islands or other bay features, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.
The study of Barnegat Bay and Great South Bay looked at data from November 2012 to October 2013, when winter storms brought water levels in these bays to among the 20 highest storm water levels reached from October 2007- October 2013.
“The frequent and extreme high-water levels caused by storms in these two bays in the months after Hurricane Sandy led to perceptions the mainland was more vulnerable to flooding,” said USGS oceanographer and coauthor of the study Neil Ganju. “This study shows that changes to bay features caused by Hurricane Sandy did not influence these post Sandy storm water levels.”
Hurricane Sandy caused extreme floods along portions of the northeast coast of the U.S. and cut new inlets across barrier islands in New Jersey and New York. Scientists investigated whether Hurricane Sandy had in some way reduced the protection provided by the barrier islands and the bays, leaving the mainland more vulnerable to flooding.
The study compared water level measurements made at stations within Great South Bay and Barnegat Bay to ocean water levels before and after Hurricane Sandy. Both are back barrier bays -- bodies of water behind barrier islands and connected to the ocean through one or more inlets.
“Changes in water levels in the back-barrier bays are primarily caused by ocean water levels driving water into or out of the bays through inlets,” said USGS oceanographer and lead author of the study Alfredo Aretxabaleta. “The study showed that most of the ocean water level fluctuations caused by storms make their way into the bays, while only a fraction of tidal fluctuations do.”
The results showed that alterations to the barrier, inlet, and bay systems caused by Hurricane Sandy did not influence the high water levels caused by storms from November 2012 to October 2013. None of these post-Sandy storms opened new inlets or caused overtopping of the protective dunes and barrier beach systems. Both before and after Sandy, about 80 percent of storm surge—a temporary rise in water level caused by an offshore storm’s winds or low pressure—made its way into the back barrier bays, whereas only about 20 percent of the tidal fluctuations do. This suggests that whether the same storm occurred before or after Hurricane Sandy, the water level in the bays would be the same.
“While the existing barrier island and inlet system shields the mainland to a great extent from the daily tides, most of the storm surge, and all long-term changes in water level, such as those resulting from sea level rise, reach the mainland” said USGS oceanographer and coauthor Bradford Butman. “These results will inform coastal communities and planners how water levels in back-barrier bays respond to ocean fluctuations.”
Several studies related to Hurricane Sandy recovery, restoration and rebuilding efforts, many of which are funded by Disaster Relief Appropriations Act 2013, are currently underway.
“The USGS is committed to providing the science foundation for federal, state, and local authorities to build more resilient communities,” said John Haines, coordinator of the USGS’ Coastal and Marine Geology Program. “This is one of many studies the USGS is doing to understand the effects of Hurricane Sandy and to evaluate the vulnerability of the coast and its communities to future storms.”
The study, “Water-level response in back-barrier bays unchanged following Hurricane Sandy,” by Aretxabaleta, A.L., Butman, B., and Ganju, N.K., is in the Geophysical Research Letters journal and available online.
Knowing flood risks allows for more informed decisions
DENTON, Texas –Homeowners, renters, and business owners in Otero County, New Mexico are encouraged to look over newly released preliminary flood maps in order to determine their flood risks and make informed decisions.Language English
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Scientists have discovered that the rapid spread of hybridization between a native species and an invasive species of trout in the wild is strongly linked to changes in climate.
In the study, stream temperature warming over the past several decades and decreases in spring flow over the same time period contributed to the spread of hybridization between native westslope cutthroat trout and introduced rainbow trout – the world’s most widely introduced invasive fish species –across the Flathead River system in Montana and British Columbia, Canada.
Experts have long predicted that climate change could decrease worldwide biodiversity through cross-breeding between invasive and native species, but this study is the first to directly and scientifically support this assumption. The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, was based on 30 years of research by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Hybridization has contributed to the decline and extinction of many native fishes worldwide, including all subspecies of cutthroat trout in western North America, which have enormous ecological and socioeconomic value. The researchers used long-term genetic monitoring data coupled with high-resolution climate and stream temperature predictions to assess whether climate warming enhances interactions between native and nonnative species through hybridization.
“Climatic changes are threatening highly prized native trout as introduced rainbow trout continue to expand their range and hybridize with native populations through climate-induced ‘windows of opportunity,’ putting many populations and species at greater risk than previously thought,” said project leader and USGS scientist Clint Muhlfeld. “The study illustrates that protecting genetic integrity and diversity of native species will be incredibly challenging when species are threatened with climate-induced invasive hybridization.”
Westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout both spawn in the spring and can produce fertile offspring when they interbreed. Over time, a mating population of native and non-native fish will result in only hybrid individuals with substantially reduced fitness because their genomes have been infiltrated by nonnative genes that are maladapted to the local environment. Thus, protecting and maintaining the genetic integrity of native species is important for a species’ ability to be resilient and better adapt to a rapidly changing climate.
Historical genetic samples revealed that hybridization between the two fish species was largely confined to one downstream Flathead River population. However, the study noted, over the past 30 years, hybridization rapidly spread upstream, irreversibly reducing the genetic integrity of native westslope cutthroat trout populations. Genetically pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout are known to occupy less than 10 percent of their historical range.
The rapid increase in hybridization was highly associated with climatic changes in the region. From 1978 to 2008 the rate of warming nearly tripled in the Flathead basin, resulting in earlier spring runoff, lower spring flooding and flows, and warming summer stream temperatures. Those locations with the greatest changes in stream flow and temperature experienced the greatest increases in hybridization.
Relative to cutthroat trout, rainbow trout prefer these climate-induced changes, and tolerate greater environmental disturbance. These conditions have likely enhanced rainbow trout spawning and population numbers, leading to massive expansion of hybridization with westslope cutthroat trout.
“The evolutionary consequences of climate change are one of our greatest areas of uncertainty because empirical data addressing this issue are extraordinarily rare; this study is a tremendous step forward in our understanding of how climate change can influence evolutionary process and ultimately species biodiversity,” said Ryan Kovach, a University of Montana study co-author.
Overall, aquatic ecosystems in western North America are predicted to experience increasingly earlier snowmelt in the spring, reduced late spring and summer flows, warmer and drier summers, and increased water temperatures – all of which spell increased hybridization between these species.
The article, published in Nature Climate Change, is titled “Invasive hybridization in a threatened species is accelerated by climate change” and can be viewed at the following website. Its authors are Clint Muhlfeld, U.S. Geological Survey; Ryan Kovach, University of Montana; Leslie Jones, U.S. Geological Survey; Robert Al-Chokhachy, U.S. Geological Survey; Matthew Boyer, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Robb Leary, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Winsor Lowe, University of Montana; Gordon Luikart, University of Montana; and Fred Allendorf, University of Montana.
This study was supported by the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Interior Department’s Northwest Climate Science Center, the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, National Science Foundation, and Bonneville Power Administration.
More information about impacts and prevention of invasive species and hybridization can be found on the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center website.
JACKSON, Miss. – The disaster recovery center in Waynesboro will be open only Tuesday and Wednesday, May 27-28, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., then closed.
In Columbus, the disaster recovery center located on Stadium Road will be open Tuesday through Friday, May 27-30, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., then closed.
All six centers currently open in Mississippi will be closed Sunday and Memorial Day.Language English
JACKSON, Miss. – Residents in the Tupelo area can learn how to build or rebuild to reduce the likelihood of damage the next time severe storms, tornadoes or floods hit. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mitigation experts know how and they are sharing their knowledge.
FEMA mitigation specialists will be at Lowe’s in Tupelo for five days next week to discuss specific methods with anyone who stops by. They will have free booklets and pamphlets with additional details.
Tuesday, May 27, through Saturday, May 31
JACKSON, Miss. – Survivors have until 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, to visit the disaster recovery center located on Stadium Drive in Columbus and until 6 p.m. Friday, May 30, to visit the disaster recovery center in Waynesboro. Both centers will be closed this Sunday and Memorial Day and then reopen for two and four days respectively.Language English
JACKSON, Miss. – Federal assistance approved for disaster survivors in 12 Mississippi counties has reached more than $10 million.Language English
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- More than $12 million has been approved through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program. The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $3 million through its low-interest disaster loan program.
The following numbers, compiled May 23, provide a snapshot of the Alabama/FEMA disaster recovery to date:
Funds approvedLanguage English